Monday, 9 November 2009

Still A Pain In The Neck

Academic and non-academic staff unions of Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH, protest over poor funding and neglect of the institution by the state government

By Increase Abasi-Ubong

Even as striking university lectures and other non-academic staff unions in the nation's universities have decided to sheath the sword and return to class, the fate of students of the Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH, still hangs in the balance. This followed the threat of academic and non-academic staff unions in the university to embark on industrial action as a result of poor condition of service. CRUTECH has been plagued by crisis since it was established by the Cross River State government in 2002.
Last Week, staff of the institution took to the streets of Calabar to protest the neglect of the institution by the state government. The protesting staff accused the state government of being insensitive to the plight of the university workers. They accused the state government of attaching more importance to tourism and the carnival than the education of its citizens. Some of the placards read: “Tourism and Carnival without education means nothing to Cross River State;” “Carnival first, education last;” “Imoke, save education for the future generation;” “CRUTECH is not part of the civil service,” “save CRUTECH from total collapse;” “CRUTECH workers are the least paid among universities” and “CRUTECH workers deserve the best like their colleagues in other universities.”
The deputy vice chancellor of the university, Dr. Ikpi Ugot who addressed the protesting workers described the situation in the university as unfortunate. Dr. Ugot who commended them for carrying out the protest peacefully assured the protesting workers that “someday, sometime, the problem will be solved.”
For now, all the industrial unions in the university are on strike. The Academic Staff Union of the University which earlier suspended its local strike because of the nationwide strike declared by ASUU has joined the other unions in the local strike. The grouse of the union is the alleged refusal of the state government to dialogue with the union.
The chairman of CRUTECH branch of the Academic Staff Union of University, Dr. Mathew Nsing Ogar told this magazine that the issues in dispute have lingered for too long. “Negotiations commenced, but were inconclusive because the state government aborted the process.” Dr. Ogar further told Newsworld that apart from the various arrears owed the workers, the university environment is not conducive for academic activities, adding that efforts by ASUU to compel the state government to improve the deplorable state of facilities in the university has not yielded any result. “Teaching and learning conditions in the university are the most repugnant, deplorable and least attractive in the country. Poor teaching and learning facilities including obsolete studio and laboratories inherited from the defunct Calabar Polytechnic and College of Agriculture, Obubra; inadequate office accommodation, dilapidated hostels, filthy environment and inadequate lecture halls litter the various campuses of the university. The state government has not been fair to staff of CRUTECH. The union has severally solicited to have audience with the governor to no avail. We strongly believe that Governor Liyel Imoke will better appreciate our problems if he meets with the union and dialogues.”
The chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, CRUTECH branch, Ntufam Ndifon accused the state government of being insensitive to the plight of the university workers. He said the situation in CRUTECH was so deplorable that no staff of any other university would want to work in the institution. “We are the least paid university workers in the country; in fact we earn pittance. It is ironical that we collect the least salaries but pay higher taxes than our counterparts in other universities.”
Ndifon who expressed regret over the deplorable state of facilities in the university said CRUTECH staff are poorly motivated, their offices sparsely furnished and equipped and wondered how the state government expects them to put in their best. The SSANU chairman condemned the government's refusal to dialogue with industrial unions in the university, noting that as long as the state government remains adamant, the crisis would continue. He said CRUTECH workers were tired of government's antics and would resist any further attempt by the state government to 'enslave' them. “As far as we are concerned, CRUTECH is grounded, nothing is working in the university. We will ensure that no academic and administrative activity takes place in the university until our demands are fully met.”
But the state government said most of the protesting CRUTECH staff are not fit to work in a university. Perhaps, this might have prompted the government to redeploy over 100 academic staff to secondary schools in the state. The state Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke said his administration is committed towards transforming CRUTECH into a first class university. “If we agree that we must have a first class institution, there must be some oxen that must be gored. For CRUTECH, we either have a first class university or we do not,” the governor said, noting that the state was willing to meet the demands of the CRUTECH workers if he could be assured of the quality of their performance. "I do not have any problem paying what they are asking for, but I also need the guarantee on quality for the sake of our children and the future of the entire state."

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